May 2010 Archives

A reader writes:

Am amused by the observations that the pink illustration makes that look a lot like Vagina Intl Airport.

Robbed by another set of intl consultants.

bermuda-airport-800.jpg

There's a lot of material here. But I'll leave it alone.

Notice the new span bridge joining from Coney Island to Stone Crusher corner.

I'm going to start a palm tree plant nursery. There's a couple million dollars worth of palm trees there.

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Support #Bermuda, add a #twibbon to your avatar now! - http://bit.ly/8p1XD2

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A new $400M airport terminal? They really are out of their minds. http://bit.ly/cTgids

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On Friday the outgoing Premier delivered this indisputable lie to Parliament:

"The media council, as proposed by this Government, achieves that and, as international media organisations have determined, does not even come close to threatening the freedom of the press."

Which of course begs the question of if the outgoing Premier is willing to lie to Parliament about the international media condemnation of his Media Council Act, why wouldn't he also lie about the supposed "continuing deterioration of media objectivity" and the whole global media conspiracy against the PLP (excluding all the PLP owned and run media)?

You can't take seriously the claim that "this Government does however envision a day when fair, objective and accountable journalism is the norm rather than the exception." when that same Government is lying to the House of Assembly.

Credibility is much harder to gain than lose. Bermuda loses a little bit more of its own every time the Government and the outgoing Premier behave like small time undemocratic despots, rather than sophisticated and progressive legislators of one of the most prosperous places in the world.

A related question is how much damage are the PLP going to allow Dr. Brown to do to their party on his way out? Is he going to leave his party and the country the way George Bush did for the Republicans and the US? The way Tony Blair did to Labour and the UK? The way Jean Cretien did for the Liberals and Canada?

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While the media council is getting resolved, I've got another rant about the media in Bermuda.

In 2010, the age of 3D HD TV, it is a crime against Bermudians that we are going to have to watch the World Cup on ZBM/ZFB, whose picture can only be characterised as sub-Standard Definition.

In case you're interested, Bermuda Broadcasting has exclusive rights to broadcast the World Cup, which means that when all those Bermudians see games listed on Cablevision in digital on ESPN, or perhaps even HD on TSN HD, what they'll actually see is a black out.

We've been through this before, in 2002, when Cablevision had additional games on their channels but were forced to black out their channels and carry Bermuda Broadcasting.

But now it's a bit different. It isn't just a turf war over exclusivity, it's also about product quality.

I could live with exclusivity if ZBM/ZFB was actually watchable. But it's not.

To put it nicely, the picture quality on ZBM/ZFB is cruel and unusual punishment. It's embarrassing in fact that while the Government is boasting that we're the most wired country in the world, our local TV is analog. Yes, analog. The signal that the US mandated be discontinued this year.

So as I said at the beginning, while ESPN in the US will be offering the world cup in 3D HD, here in Bermuda we'll be wondering where the ball is amongst all the snow and ghost images.

Actually it's worse than that. All those Bermudians with great big plasma and LCD flat screen HD TVs will be worse off; because those big TVs expect a digital signal, not analog, which was ended in the US this year and is no longer available. So the artifacts on the screen will be amplified on 50 and 60 inch TVs. iPods have better screen resolution that ZBM.

Good luck folks. Set your expectations for this World Cup coverage low, very low, unless Bermuda Broadcasting agrees to waive their exclusivity that is.

But that's very unlikely to happen without some sort of Ministerial intervention.

Rant. Over.

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It's cruel and unusual punishment for ZBM/ZFB to have exclusivity for the World Cup. That means a fuzzy picture & blocked ESPN on Cable.

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There's a lot of things that our insufferable self-promoter of a former US Consul General could be called. "Expert on reinsurance" is certainly not one of them.

A taxpayer funded thank you political appointment to an out of the way posting where you can't do much damage is one of the more unconventional routes to an adjunct professorship (of reinsurance), although evidently it's a fast one.

If just living and schmoozing for a few years in Bermuda makes you an expert in reinsurance then there's at least 65,000 more experts.

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Read and digest the anti-democratic sentiments behind this:

Meanwhile, Public Safety Minister David Burch was on Hott 107.5 yesterday, claiming that this newspaper should count itself lucky because some in the PLP want to lock them up and have sanctions, penalties, consequences and fines.

In an apparent reference to Government's withdrawal of advertising in The Royal Gazette, Sen. Burch said he was disappointed not to have seen more favourable coverage despite hitting this newspaper "where it hurts most".

"At what stage of the game do you figure out that those people really are crazy?" he said.

Just to reiterate:

...some in the PLP want to lock them up and have sanctions, penalties, consequences and fines.

So, the PLP during the election were against locking up violent criminals but are apparently for locking up the press.

Very, very scary.

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After Chapter 5,364 in the Chronicles of Anger Management by David Burch, I'm thinking that the Works and Engineering Minister should order him a blowout preventer as has been recommended for Rush Limbaugh, and not one made by BP.

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Careful on South Shore this weekend. I saw about 50 jellyfish all bobbing together in a clump at Watch Hill Park today.

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I found a lot in this series of questions interesting, but the following specific answer provided - anonymously of course - is worthy of a bit of deconstructing.

Let's take it in chunks:

Question: Why is legislation needed here when many countries have self-regulating press/media councils, without legal or statutory control?

Good question. So let's look at the response:

Answer: Although there have been many complaints from the public in the past, there has been no attempt on behalf of the media to form a mechanism to address such complaints. In 1999, there was an attempt to establish a press association; however, it failed due to lack of media follow through.

Show me the 'many complaints from the public'. Politicians and their proxies don't count. Of course politicians don't like their media coverage. That is other than from their wholly owned media (CITV and Hott 107.5).

Jurisdictional research revealed that the majority of countries have non-government, self-regulating media councils. In compliance with the Bermuda Constitution and in keeping with current practice, it was proposed that the drafting instructions be reframed in the form of an enabling bill that will set out standards for the media council.

The Bermuda Constitution protects freedom of speech and freedom of the press, as has been recently and repeatedly affirmed by the courts, both local, appeals and the Privy Council (as we're all very familiar with, some of us more than others).

It should be noted that although the press is not directly regulated in Britain, it is subject to a wide range of legislation [that] could affect media content. These include libel laws and Article 10 of the European Union Human Rights Convention.

There is little protection for the individual in this Island democracy. It has been historically noted that the print media, inclusive of newspapers, magazines and periodicals, exert a significant influence to the reading public without any regulations or reference to agreed standards of journalistic integrity.

Now we get to the good part.

That sentence could also read as follows:

It should be noted that although the press is not directly regulated in Bermuda, it is subject to a wide range of legislation [that] could affect media content. These include libel laws.

So, the outgoing Premier's anonymous press proxy suggests that British legislation acts as a good regulation of the press due to libel laws and the EU Human Rights Convention.

Uh oh.

The press in Bermuda is also subject to libel laws - laws that are similar to the UK's and are not materially different in any way according to my information.

That much has been well established courtesy of the Premier's repeated attempts to invoke libel to suppress free speech. Unsuccessful attempts around the BHC case, all the way to the Privy Council - Britain's highest appeals court - and also recently on the leaked Cabinet memo.

This was a bad argument, because Bermuda and Britain are indistinguishable when it comes to libel law, which the Premier's proxy has mistakenly cited as being somehow superior in Britain.

So scratch the libel excuse.

Now, on to Article 10 of the EU Human Rights Convention, which reads as follows:


Article 10 - Freedom of expression

1. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.

2. The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.

Not much objectionable there, although by my read it appears to essentially refer back to libel laws. But if it makes the outgoing Premier feel any better then I'm sure the press won't mind him asking the UK to extend the EU Convention to Bermuda.

He'd also find however that that the EU Convention is far too progressive for the Progressive Labour Party as it also protects sexual orientation - the PLP better be careful what they ask for).

Article 21 Non-discrimination

1. Any discrimination based on any ground such as sex, race, colour, ethnic or social origin, genetic features, language, religion or belief, political or any other opinion, membership of a national minority, property, birth, disability, age or sexual orientation shall be prohibited.

2. Within the scope of application of the Treaty establishing the European Community and of the Treaty on European Union, and without prejudice to the special provisions of those Treaties, any discrimination on grounds of nationality shall be prohibited.

So done. Problem solved. Bermuda's libel laws are in line with Britain's which the Premier touted and the EU Convention could be extended to Bermuda but wouldn't really add much regardless.

I'm not sure why I'm bothering though. We all know what this is really about.

This media council is just the outgoing Premier's parting gift to The Royal Gazette.

It's a shame however that Bermuda's reputation as a stable and sophisticated place takes yet another hit because of decade old grudges and paranoias.

Hat tip to Vexed for coining "The Media Suppression Act".

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I find it telling, and hilarious, that the same Government that is seeking to censor and regulate the media, including the use of confidential sources (p. 5 of the pdf), replies to questions from the media anonymously.

We asked Premier Ewart Brown -- the Minister responsible for the proposed media council -- a series of questions about it last week. He did not provide answers but an anonymous Government spokesman e-mailed these responses, which he said could not be attributed to Dr. Brown:

That's all you need to know about this whole farce.

The first item for a new media council should be to ban the use of anonymous press officers.

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Send rain. Tank rain preferably.

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Firetrucks heading up to the dump at 2PM. A bit of smoke coming up.

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Couldn't wait for May 24th. First swim of the year today at Mangrove Bay. Brrrrrr.

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Spectacular Bermuda afternoon. Took the boat for a run down North Shore. Perfect conditions. Summer's coming.

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A friend who attended Mr. Burch's Bermudians in International Business meeting said to me afterwards that:

The thing with David Burch is that 90% of what he says he is mostly reasonable although you may disagree, but then the other 10% is so outrageously offensive and inflammatory that he shouldn't be given much responsibility.

So, from the Labour and Home Affairs Minister's radio interview on Everest DeCosta several days ago, addressing visas and marriages of convenience/prostitution, I present Exhibit A-Z of my friend's theory

'.....of course, sometimes we have to save Bermudians from themselves. You know what happens, Bermudians go to one of these countries, fall in love and bring them back to Bermuda. Then it goes wrong and I tell 'em (I think I can say this on the air) - You can't make a whore into a housewife'

Okay then.

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How can we have a media council that:

  • Doesn't include Government's Department of Communication
  • Doesn't include the party press officers
  • Doesn't include the party websites
  • Doesn't address media ownership by elected politicians (Hott 107.5)
  • Doesn't address media run by politicians (Hott 107.5)
  • Is dominated by political appointees
  • Already have a politically appointed broadcast Commission which refused to enforce compliance with legislation at the last election

If the PLP's website isn't subject to this council, Article 11 (2) (n), which deals with "incitement to hatred", might as well be removed.

If we have a media council shouldn't we also have a Political Complaints Council governing the behaviour of, and to field complaints against, politicians?

The closest thing we have to that is the Ombudsman, except you'll recall Cabinet kindly excluded themselves from any oversight of the Ombudsman. Convenient.

This thing is an abomination (and probably at odds with the courts and the Consitution on free speech and press freedom), and quite simply a backdoor attempt to stifle free speech and media independence. it's clearly driven by the lame duck Premier's, and to a lesser extent the whole PLP's, irrational obsession with The Royal Gazette as the paper of record and their inability to muzzle them in the courts which have repeatedly ruled in favour of the right to publish (BHC and more narrowly in the recently leaked Cabinet memo).

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Here's hoping that the Bollywood visitors coming to film a few scenes for their movie on the beach have their visas in order.

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The fourth column I ever wrote for The Royal Gazette was titled "We're living in the dark ages", and discussed the antiquated way Parliament conducted itself.

It was refreshing then when I tuned in yesterday, admittedly still only available via audio, to hear a proper Parliamentary Question Period as well as 30 minute limits on each speaker during the debate on gambling. The time limit made every speaker more focused and prevented much of the usual pointless rambling and grandstanding.

The Royal Gazette covers more of the imminent changes, including a digital archive and Hansard, which are all very overdue and welcome.

Credit has to go to John Barritt who has been relentlessly pushing for this for years.

It is also worth pointing out that the new website Bernews.com was live-blogging the gambling debate, shortly after which The Royal Gazette website had frequent updates as well.

Bermuda's Pariament and media are finally moving out of the dark ages into the electronic age.

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The green paper is being debated. And the outcome is obvious. Gambling legislation through Parliament is dead. Stick a fork in it.

The outgoing Premier can continue to waste time and dollars campaigning for it, but it ain't gonna happen. Not this way.

The only path that the outgoing Premier appears to have is to take up the UBP's suggestion of a referendum and try and go around Parliament; it's clear from today's debate that there is close to zero support for gambling in the House.

Paula Cox pretty much killed it by coming out early in opposition and cited the PLP's leadership change in October as why the timing is inappropriate. There is close to no support in Cabinet or the governing party, which makes the official position of the PLP, as articulated on the PLP's website, of aggressively in favour all the more interesting:


The facts are clear and conclusive. Safe, well regulated and controlled gaming will create up to 3,000 new jobs and add up to $146 million to our economy. Gaming is demanded by tourists. In our gateway markets on the American east cost, fully 65% believe that casinos are a very or somewhat important to their tourism choices. That number jumps to 84% among travel and tourism professionals. Last night, at the Sandy's Rotary, Premier Ewart Brown made the case for safe, well regulated gaming:

That is from the official site of the PLP, yet you can count on one hand how many of their MPs have come out in favour. The party website says they are for it. Their MP's say they are overwhelmingly against it.

So which is it? Or has the PLP as a party handed over all party communications and policies to a Presidential style apparatus?

The country - and his own party - are looking past him. Ewart Brown is in the rear view mirror.

If it walks like a lame duck...it's a lame duck.

Six more months treading water is time Bermuda can't afford. The PLP should move him out now. These are unusual times. Ewart Brown has no mandate. He's simply on a taxpayer sponsored international farewell tour.

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I think the obvious initial takeaway from the UK election result/non-result last night is that even in a climate very hostile for the incumbents, it is very difficult for 3rd parties to gain traction in a first past the post Parliamentary system.

There's some lessons here for the BDA and UBP. it's hard to see how they don't just cannibalise each others vote in a election in Bermuda, even one where the mood is one of change (The 3rd Party LibDems still lost seats in a change election).

Barring some sort of an alliance (no pun intended) - a carving up of seats around the island between the two with an intent of forming a coalition - the short term net beneficiary of an organised 3rd party in Bermuda is the incumbent PLP, despite their increasing unpopularity and ill-advised policies.

The other option of course is for the UBP and BDA to merge pre-election into a new entity.

Regardless, I think in the long term the political ground is shifting in Bermuda and the creation of the BDA has changed the dynamic, which is a positive development.

The question is, does Bermuda have enough time. Can we afford, both literally and figuratively, another one or two terms of the PLP's policies and politics? Vexed addresses that question.

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Watching the UK election results. I love election nights.

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8 Wahoo and one Tuna. Not bad for early May.

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How is it that I filled up 1 TB at home? Moved files to create space and iTunes is a mess now. Argh.

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Gone Fishing tomorrow on Mako. First trip of the year. Probability of puking approaching 100%.

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The PLP say that they are going to revolutionalise healthcare in Bermuda.

I'm with Vexed. Be afraid, be very, very afraid.

Their credentials on this are the giant mess they created with health care for seniors, a mega-debacle leading to FutureDebt that was an unplanned and un-budgeted election vote grabber.

I love this quote, in attempting to suggest that the insurers are being unreasonable in their rate increases:

"Although the insurers have had to pay a higher share of the burden this year, this did not represent an increase in costs within the system. Instead, it was a rebalancing of the costs to bring about equity amongst all payers."

Which is a health insurance cost increase. Hence the rate increases as the insurers try and maintain margin by passing the cost along in rate increases.

This will not end well.

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